In 1968, sociologist Robert Merton used the term “The Matthew Effect” to explain the origins of exceptional people when he formulated the theory of “cumulative advantage.” The term has its foundation in the Christian gospel of Matthew: “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Merton used the term to describe how, among other things, eminent scientists often received more credit than a comparatively unknown researcher, even one who did similar work.
The Matthew Effect is a social phenomenon often linked to the idea that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This refers to a common concept that those who already have status find themselves in situations where they gain more, and those who do not have prestige typically struggle to achieve more. The Matthew Effect also helps explain why some can embrace a disruptive, risk-taking mindset more readily than others can.
Nature of Nurture?
Successful people seem to engender more success. Superlative students get the finest teachers. The most gifted athletes receive the best coaching. If Beethoven had been born in the wilds of Africa, with no piano in sight, this accident of birth might have robbed civilization of one of the great musical geniuses of all time. Similarly, if Michelangelo’s family had owned a bakery instead of a marble quarry, perhaps we’d now have a world-class torte that bore his signature instead of the Sistine Chapel. But none of this paints a credible picture of how those with a disruptive mindset come to walk among us.
When botanists find a rare orchid, they scrutinize the characteristics of the superior seed and then research the environmental constructs that led to the exquisite flower: soil conditions, weather, temperature, moisture, etc. Similarly, when we encounter the human equivalent, we should examine the salient factors that led to the development of the virtuoso. Nature or nurture? The answer doesn’t matter. Does the credit for a bumper crop go to the plant or to the farmer? Probably both.Discover how to change the way you take risks. Utilize these five tips to develop a disruptive mindset. Click To Tweet
A Disruptive Mindset
So, what if you’ve spent your entire life with a stagnant mindset—one that has kept you from taking risks and challenging assumptions about yourself? Can people develop or adopt a disruptive mindset in adulthood after decades of seeing themselves with limitations? Absolutely.
- Become self-aware. Challenge long-held assumptions about yourself, others, and the world around you. Seek trusted advisers who will help you know yourself better.
- Develop skills and abilities that will give you the confidence you’ll need to take risks.
- Self-regulate. Don’t let emotional reactions define you.
- Stay motivated by rewarding yourself for effort, not just goal accomplishment.
- Bounce back from setbacks. Wallowing in self-pity does no one any good.
A disruptive mindset starts with a clear vision of what a person should change and what should stay the same. Any other approach will upset the internal ecosystem unnecessarily, unreasonably, and unwisely. How we think about our talents and abilities determines our success in every arena of human endeavor and separates the winners from the also-rans or the never-tried.